I was visiting Chris Walk a few years ago and was perusing his huge stack of comics and I came across Batman: Earth One. I wasn’t reading New 52 Batman at the time (yes, big mistake) so it had been some times since I had really gotten into the world of The Caped Crusader. The story follows the adventures of Bruce Wayne as he’s starting out on his journey to becoming Batman. Haven’t we already read this tale in the Frank Miller classic ‘Year One‘? Yes and No.
Earth One is certainly an Elseworlds take for The Dark Knight. The characters are the same, but their origins are different and in a way that’s completely refreshing. I know that it can sometimes be beating a dead horse by getting origin tales; but not if they’re done in a creative and innovative way. Earth One Volumes 1 & 2 do just that. What writer Geoff Johns does, is creative a brand new world for our hero that’s familiar and at the same time, something we’ve never seen before. If you want to avoid the spoilers, this would be the time to stop reading.
As I mentioned before, the story starts off at the beginning. Bruce is still taken to the theatre to watch a movie and his parents are gunned down by a perp. This is what drives him to become The Batman. This time around though, Alfred is an old war friend of Thomas Wayne and just happens to be visiting the family before they head to the movies. When the parents are killed, the Police go to Alfred and ask him to take care of Bruce or else they’re going to have to put him in Foster Care. This adds a different level to their relationship that we haven’t seen before in the comics. Alfred is younger, wiser still, but he teaches Bruce how to fight and is only called his Butler in order to explain why he’s still seen around Bruce and not gone.
This Bruce is much like the one you’re familiar with, but maybe a bit less sure of his abilities. There’s a fantastic part in the book where he’s investigating a crime scene and gets called out by James Gordon on being a bad detective. It was just a little nod to the face that it’s going to take some work to be The World’s Greatest Detective; Batman won’t just be that smart right off the bat.
Gordon and the accompanying characters all get pretty fantastic back stories. Bullock is a hot-shot tv detective who wants to make a name for himself in Gotham. He’s teamed with Gordon, whose corrupt at the time and the two of them must work out how to fix the Police force. They have a pretty amazing relationship together and it was great to see their dichotomy played out differently than it usually in the comics. Bullock was basically Bill Paxton in Predator 2.
Our villains also get different stories as The Penguin is the Mayor of Gotham, Killer Crock is actually a good guy with a bad skin disease, and The Riddler is the big Mastermind behind all of the major killing sprees of Gotham. No Joker, No Poison Ivy, and Harvey Dent is not friends with Bruce; but in fact hates his guts. Not until the end of Volume 2 do you get a hint at what he may become.
I found myself completely engrossed in these comics. I think that origin stories have a tendency to be beaten to death and done in poor taste and not well-written. Maybe that’s just a thing that happens in Hollywood. Geoff Johns constructs a completely new tale within the world of Gotham that we grew up in; but haven’t seen with this set of eyes. I also don’t want to downplay the artwork from Gary Frank which is a thing of brilliance. He gave Batman EYES. You may think of it as being no big deal, but we NEVER see his eyes under the cowl, its groundbreaking. He also did a great job of giving the tales an old-school feel but keeping up and modernizing it to accompany the story. Just fantastic!
If I can say anything bad about the comics is that the first volume was in 2012 and this one is 2015. I really hope that we don’t have to wait another 3 years for the next one. I highly recommend you go out and pick up both volumes HERE and then let us know what you think!